Ed. note: Have a question for one of our Big 4 refugees or the perma-ink stained wench that has never passed the CPA exam? Email us at [email protected].
Thank you for taking the tide to address my concern. I am a 10 year veteran looking to transition out of the military and into public accounting. I have a BSAcc from a private school and am looking at potentials for a Grad degree. My enlistment expires in the next few years, and I am really lost on the direction I should go with a Master’s degree. I have heard some say that I should do MBA with a finance interest so that I am more marketable. I have also heard others mention that I should specialize. I have some marketable qualities (Top Secret with SCI clearance, 3.9 GPA in undergrad), but I feel like I have lacked in networking due to my military service. I do have several contacts in the space business, specifically with Lockheed Martin, Aerospace and Boeing, but nothing on the accounting and finance sides (my current job is in military space communications). My undergrad school is in Colorado Springs and the networking events do not have any real attraction from accounting firms. Because of my military commitment, getting accounting experience is not possible (short of small things like running finance for my local HOA and VITA tax stuff for my base).
My dream is to work for a large accounting firm (doesn’t have to be Big 4, as I am not nearly as marketable as a 22 year old), but I am finding Internet research and local conversation to not hold enough for me. I am a student member of my local IMA, but management accounting is not the direction I want to go. I prefer audit, and would even consider tax (or if I am desperate I would even consider compliance), but I feel stuck in a hole about how to get my foot in the door. It seems until my military commitment is up I don’t have any place to start. I am in my early 30s, but my military career has taught me how to work long hours, so I am not opposed to Big 4-like treatment. I really want to make this change in my life, and any advice would be greatly appreciated.
Given that you have a few years left in your enlistment, I commend you for planning ahead. Your situation could lend itself to being a difficult one, but with some patience and enduring networking, I don’t see a reason that shouldn’t be able to break into a career within public accounting. For the reason you mentioned above (young blood), you might not be able to start out at a Big 4, but regional/midsized firms should definitely be on your radar.
Couple of things to consider:
Education: You have a great foundation with your BS in accounting and high GPA; however, you will be removed from the classroom by almost 15 years when you’re applying for accounting positions. Consider a Masters in Accounting program, as it will compliment your undergraduate work well, refresh your memory and skillset, and look attractive to HR reps at the public firms. I suggest staying away from the Masters in Finance because it won’t be the strong refresher you need to impress the hiring managers.
Network: Definitely check in with your contacts at Lockheed Martin, Boeing, etc. Sure, they may not be in the finance/accounting departments you’re interested in, but they should have access to the internal job boards. Have your contacts formally introduce you to the HR hiring rep responsible for the accounting positions now, just to initiate contact. Stay in touch in the coming years, seeking advice and providing feedback about your situation. Keep these doors open even though they are not direct links to the public accounting career you seek.
Spread out: Make a list of the geographic areas that you’d considering move to when you return to the States, then do your due diligence on what accounting firms are in the area. Reach out now to their HR/hiring managers (if not listed on company’s website, search LinkedIn) to establish contact now, and ask them straight up what they think of your candidacy.
Feel free to email me your résumé or any follow up questions should you have them. Stay in touch.